The fabulous and inimitable LAURA guest-blogs. Her topic today–weight & body positivity and issues.
Written by Laura Ann
Like most nights, Ariel and I spent Friday at a smoky hole-in-the-wall bar without a sign. And, like more nights, we spent our evening conversing and exploring future creative ideas we both want to try. She asked me if I would ever want to contribute to her new and—I might add—amazing blog. I have to say that I’m really excited. I don’t fancy myself a writer, but I do think I have interesting ideas and views that I’d like to share. When she asked me to write something personal, I first thought of topics related to weight and body image. I have never been a thin person. Even as a child, while not overweight, I was never as thin as my peers. My mom likes to refer to it as “solid.” By the time I interested middle school and hit puberty, I was medically obese. And like any self-conscious teenager, I was pretty obsessed with losing weight and wanted to be like the rest of my friends who wore straight sizes (as in, not plus sizes).
I look at pictures of myself from high school, where my weight probably topped 250 lbs, and I kind of laugh. I thought I was so fat, but in reality, it wasn’t that bad. I was proportionate and didn’t really stand out. I was physically able to do anything I wanted. It’s nothing compared to my situation now. I’m going to real talk with y’all right now—I currently weigh just a few pounds shy of 400. So what’s life like for a 400 pound 25-year-old woman? Let me tell you… I have to think about my size every day of my life. It affects everything I do and experience. I’ve made a list of a few ways it affects me:
- Sitting spaces – will the booth fit and can I casually ask for a table without being obvious? Is this the movie theater with movable armrests? Will the lawn chair actually hold me without breaking?
- Visiting friends –staying over at other people’s houses always poses a challenge. I can never “just crash” at a friend’s place because sleeping requires that I have a mattress and a place to set up my sleep apnea machine.
- Plans with friends in general – are we going somewhere where we have to stand for a long period of time? Do we have to walk more than a block? Both of those things are extremely painful and difficult for me.
- Jobs – I’m lucky that my job is not physically demanding. But as much as I love it there, I would like to land a better-paying job. Options for jobs are much lower for me than my peers of more typical sizes. And even if I found a job I could do, weight discrimination is a real thing and could prevent me from getting said job.
- Judgment, shame and cruelty – self-explanatory
- Finding clothes that fit and look halfway attractive is hard. When I do, they’re expensive.
- Navigating dating life – frustrating. I’m lucky that I have an awesome partner who loves me for all the right reasons, and my weight doesn’t factor in at all. But when I was single and on OkCupid, I had two common experiences. Men and women would simply dismiss me as a potential partner because I was too heavy for their liking OR they would ONLY be interested in me because I fulfilled a fat fetish for them and weren’t interested in my personality at all.
So at this point you are probably thinking, “Well Laura, if it’s that hard, why not just lose weight?” Well first of all, I’ve tried. I’ve tried a lot. I’ve tried counting calories, veganism, vegetarianism, low carb, paleo, weight watchers and, of course, the new fashionable buzz phrase, “lifestyle changes.” And you know what? It wasn’t possible for me to stick to them and/or produced NO results. I hear all the time that weight loss is simple; calories-in have to be less than calories-out. And I simply don’t agree with that. Losing weight is a complex issue of genetics, body chemistry, social life, family support, physiological health, psychological stability, exercise level, and yes of course, eating habits. For some people, it’s virtually impossible to lose weight without an extreme measure (like surgery). Now that I’ve shared some complications in my life, I’d like to share thoughts and opinions I’ve formulated while learning to love my body and navigating the world as an obese woman.
- I use the word FAT. I am a FAT woman. I use it because “fat” is just a physical description like any other. Or, it should be. I don’t think it should be a term of shame, and I don’t use it in a self-deprecating way. I use it to show that fat is not a disqualifier for being beautiful, sexy, smart and motivated.
- The “curvy” and “real women” narrative should be eliminated. Guess what? Lots of women are curvy whether they’re overweight or not. And there are fat women who are just NOT curvy. I get why women started using the “real women” phase, and maybe it started with good intentions. It was a way to combat the stereotype that all women had to look like models. But using the term “real” creates an “us and them” situation, which is harmful. You know what makes you a woman? If you identify as a woman. Period.
- Not all fat women’s experiences are the same. And they’re all valid. This is one I struggle with a lot. I tend to think that women who are smaller than me don’t have it as hard, and that may not be (and is probably not) true. We all have unique perspectives that are important to fat acceptance.
- Being fat is a visible problem that people feel they can comment on because it can’t be hidden. Even well meaning comments are often offensive and intrusive. Things like, “Should you be eating that” and “Let’s make something healthier” and “I know this really great diet you could try” and “You’re so pretty, wouldn’t it be great if you lost weight” all come from a place of trying to help. But, it can really be damaging. If you wouldn’t say it to a thin person, don’t say it to a fat person.
- This may seem obvious, but sometimes it’s not—DON’T BE MEAN TO FAT PEOPLE. We have feelings and whether or not you think it’s our fault that we’re fat, it doesn’t mean we deserve cruelty. Being mean will not motivate someone to lose weight. I know people who openly oppose racism, able-ism, homophobia, transphobia and misogyny, yet will still tear apart a fat person on the Internet. Why do these otherwise “considerate” people feel it is ok? It seems that part of society still feels that it’s acceptable to treat fat people as less than human.
- Not all fat people want to lose weight. I would like to be thinner and more physically able to do things, but that’s not every fat person’s reality. Some don’t have any problem with their body—physically, health-wise, confidence-wise. And that’s ok.
- Knowing someone is fat does not mean you know about their health. Yes, weight-related disease is on the rise and that’s a problem, but not every fat person has health issues. For me, my numbers are great. I have perfect blood pressure, no diabetes, and no high cholesterol. Not all fat people are unhealthy AND not all thin people are healthy. Remember that saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”?
I’m hoping to accomplish a few things with this blog post. First, to establish some key points of the fat acceptance movement as a reference point for future blog posts. Second, so that those reading can evaluate their attitudes towards fat people and think about the bias and privilege they might have. And lastly, I’d like you to add your own thoughts, stories, and perspectives. I realize that this is a very woman-centered post, but men’s views are more than welcome too! You don’t have to agree with me, and I welcome people to challenge my ideas respectfully. Love, Laura Ann